"Serious disagreements" remain as US, Cuba claim progress in talks

Updated: 2015-02-28 14:17


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The head of the Cuban delegation, Josefina Vidal, appears at a news conference during talks between the United States and Cuba at the State Department in Washington February 27, 2015. Cuban and US officials held a second round of talks on Friday toward normalizing ties and both sides said they made good progress, although they did not set a date for renewal of diplomatic relations that Washington severed 54 years ago. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - US and Cuban officials said progress was made in the second round of talks on resuming diplomatic ties here Friday, but they also cautioned that "serious disagreements" remained.

US Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson who leads the US delegation, described the talks as "productive" and "encouraging", saying that the two sides made "meaningful" progress in resolving their differences.

She also expressed optimism that the US and Cuba could open embassies in each other's capital ahead of the Summit of the Americas slated for April 10-11. But she added that "serious disagreements remained."

The assessment was echoed by her counterpart, Josefina Vidal, Cuba's lead negotiator who heads the Cuban foreign ministry's US division.

She told reporters that progress had been made in the talks, but also cautioned that differences remained.

Friday's talks, which focused on reopening embassies, continued the bilateral dialogue initiated on Jan. 22 in Havana, and was seen as a key step in the reengagement between the two adversaries since December.

One sticking point of the talks is Cuba's inclusion in the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982.

During Friday's talks, Vidal renewed the call for Cuba to be removed from the list, although she said it's not a precondition for re-establishing diplomatic relations.

In announcing a shift in Cuban policy in December, US President Barack Obama instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to review Cuba's designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. Washington has claimed that it sees the review as separate from the diplomatic talks.